I’m listening to the birds chirp outside my window. We’ve left the window cracked over night. Unheard of, even a week ago. Yesterday the temperature rose to 72 and the sun shone all day. Our stream was swollen with melted snow rushing downstream.
Spring hasn’t arrived, unfortunately. It’s a trick of New England, a trick of nature to give you a golden taste of the glorious summer ahead, to get you through the rainy, muddy, dreary next two months. But I believe the snow may melt this time, and my son told me a flower was blooming, so I am hopeful that some of this good weather is here to stay. Continue reading “Get Out of Town, Already!”
During our three year experiment, one of our goals is to get our house ready for sale. To that end, we asked a realtor to visit last month and give her opinion of what needs to be done to make the house ready. It turns out, a lot. But the good news is, we have time to tackle all of these projects slowly, so we’ll be able to do a lot of the work ourselves.
Mr. ThreeYear and I practice selective frugality. That is, we spend our money on the things that matter to us, but minimize spending in areas that don’t matter. One of those areas is clothes. While I haven’t been on a three-year clothing ban like Mrs. Frugalwoods, I minimize costs in this area whenever possible. We also have two kids and live in Winterfell–I mean, New England–so we have growing bodies to clothe through our long, snowy winters.
So how do we outfit our Little ThreeYears each year so that they wear clothes that fit, don’t get made fun of by their peers (yes, this still happens, folks–little kiddos live for the moment they can decimate their classmates and be King of the School for a second), and aren’t wearing capris in the middle of the winter? Continue reading “Outfitting Your Kids”
We have officially completed the first quarter of the year! We’re calling this year, which is Year One of our family’s plan to reach location independence, the Year of Good Habits. Each month, I focus on improving or developing one new habit. Sometimes the habits are directly related to personal finance and sometimes they’re related to general self-improvement. At the end of each month, I have been continuing the last month’s habit (or trying to) and adding a new habit in. (But, just for totally transparency, I would not recommend starting so many new habits in one year for the average person. This is more an experiment for the blog. In real life, I try to add in one or two new habits a year).
Habits–whether intentional or not–have been proven to be incredibly important. They are routines that are so ingrained into our days that many of them we follow without realizing we do so.
Take my after school routine, for example. I get home, help the kids unpack their bags, and usually plug into my phone. I check Facebook and Twitter and generally waste half an hour of time. Habits have a predictable cycle–cue, behavior, and reward, according to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit. We experience a cue (getting home at the end of a long day), engage in a behavior (pull out my phone, scroll for half an hour), and experience the expected reward (zoning out, resting, feeling a social connection).Continue reading “A Year of Good Habits: Quarter One Update”
This past weekend, Mr. ThreeYear’s sweet tooth was activated. Unfortunately, my emergency supply of cake mix was depleted, so we had to resort to Plan B. “I would love some kuchen right about now,” he said.
Kuchen, which originated in Germany, is a delectable cross between a fruit pie and a tart. Let’s start with the pronunciation. I know it’s tempting, but it’s not in fact pronounced like kitchen with a “u”–instead, coo at a hen and you’ve said it correctly.Continue reading “Make It This Weekend: Kuchen!”
I discovered the Zero Waste movement, like so many others, when I stumbled on Béa Johnson’s blog, Zero Waste Home. Zero Wasters try to purchase and create as little trash as possible. People like Bea, who really originated the movement, get so good at it they can put all of the trash they generate in a year in a mason jar–everything else is refused, reused,reduced, recycled, or rotted, in that order.
The movement is super inspiring. Paying attention to how much trash you purchase and/or generate gets you thinking about how much waste we, as a society, generate. Zero wasters freely admit that for most people, creating no trash is really hard, if not impossible. The idea is to reduce as much as possible the amount of trash you create, to really think about what you purchase and be creative about ways of buying stuff with less packaging.
The biggest place you can make a difference in the amount of waste you make is at the grocery store.
If you have kids, you know that outfitting them can be a challenge. Kids grow so quickly that they can sometimes shoot up a size overnight. This growth magic apparently happened to my youngest son night before last, because yesterday he told me, “Mom, I can’t button these jeans. They’re too tight!” Because I heart hand-me-downs, I pulled out my Voodoo-Overnight-Growth-Thing-Happened-Larger-Sizes-Clothing Container.
I’ve heard people say (ok, it was actually just one), “I would never let my child wear someone else’s jeans. That’s just gross.” No, that’s just ridiculous.
If you have two kids, the younger one is going to wear the older one’s clothes, probably even if they’re different genders (jeans are jeans, if you get the plain kind without pink stars appliquéd on). What’s wrong with taking clothes that still have useful life in them, washing them, and then letting your child wear them? Not a thing! No one’s going to know where you got the clothes from, first of all. Second of all, it’s environmentally sound to use clothing up that still has life left in it. Lots of Zero-Wasters only shop at second-hand clothing stores to reduce the amount of waste their clothing choices make.
To me, if you have problems wearing “someone else’s clothes” there are other issues going on. I’m no psychologist, but I’ve been around plenty of people who were poor when they were kids and still bear the scars. That’s shame talking, friends, and it has nothing to do with the clothes you pick. It has to do with not feeling good enough. Let those feelings go, and embrace the practicality and environmental responsibility of used clothing!
Our family is on a journey to become location independent in three years. One of our plans is to move across the world for a few years. Today, I’ll share the story of the last time I moved to a different continent.
Travel back with me, to many, many, many (ok, not quite so many) years ago. The setting: a shabby chic apartment near my college campus. Two twenty-something women are starting to realize that the real world was closer at hand than they would like.
When I was a senior in college, with “real life” bearing down on me hard, I had a conversation one night with my friend Liz (maybe over martinis, I forget) about what we would do after college. The year before, we’d spent our fall semester in Madrid in an exchange program. We’d had the time of our lives, and were still having trouble adjusting to college life.
Part of our family’s plan for becoming location independent in the next three years is to sell our house and convert the equity into equities (excuse my bad finance joke there). We bought a short sale in 2012 and have lived in the house for five years. By the time we’re ready to move, we will have lived here for seven and a half years. Which is exactly half the length of our 15-year mortgage. (If only that meant half of the house would be paid off…. But I digress…).
Since we were fortunate enough to buy an undervalued property, we’re hoping to sell the house for quite a bit more than we paid for it, but to do so will mean some strategic investments. When we moved in, for example, there were no appliances in the house. The previous owners, hoping to get as much equity out of the house as they could before they left, even took a downstairs stove (critical for heating the house), so we had to replace that.
One of the biggest investments we’ve made is adding a downstairs guest bathroom to the house. When we moved in, there was only one bathroom on the first floor—the master. If you’ve seen our Semi-Minimalist home pictures, you’ll see that while our bathroom is a spa-like oasis (not my decision, but a very nice feature), our guests felt a little bit uncomfortable using our bathroom when they came for dinner. And we had to make sure our bathroom was always guest-ready before they came. That could be a big hassle.
Location independent means different things to different people. Some families, like Tsh from Art of Simple, take a year to travel around the world, spending days or weeks at each location. They’re free to travel because they can work remotely from anywhere.
Travel bloggers like Goats on the Road are permanent travelers, and spend months traveling around different continents, or house sit for a few months at a time between trips. They finance their trips through the income from blogging.
I know Our Next Life was strongly influenced by Robert and Robin Charlton, authors of How to Retire Early. In their book and blog, they spell out how they take frequent long trips throughout the year and return to their home base, a condo in Boulder, Colorado. They saved up a nest egg and retired early and now live off the proceeds.